Historical marker for ‘Richmond Professional Institute’ to be dedicated Wednesday

A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources that commemorates the origins of today’s Virginia Commonwealth University Monroe Park Campus will be dedicated Wednesday.

The “Richmond Professional Institute” marker will recognize the 1917 founding of the Richmond School of Social Work and Public Health, which later became RPI and ultimately merged with the Medical College of Virginia to form VCU.

The dedication and unveiling ceremony for the marker is open to the public and will take place Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 11:15 a.m. at Founders Hall, located at 827 W. Franklin St. Paid parking — cash or credit card — is available in the VCU West Broad Street parking deck, adjacent to the campus Barnes and Noble.

Speakers during the ceremony will include VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D.; Tim Davey, Ph.D., interim dean of the VCU School of Social Work; Joe Lowenthal, chair of the Richmond Professional Institute Alumni Council; and Julie V. Langan, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Guests will be invited to join a processional to the current location of the VCU School of Social Work at the Academic Learning Commons, where a reception honoring VCU School of Social Work emeriti faculty senate presidents will be held on the third floor lobby. A pedestrian path connects the two locations.

In 1917, the marker reads, “A group of community leaders founded the Richmond School of Social Economy, later known as the Richmond School of Social Work and Public Health.” Initially, the school focused on instruction in the fields of social work and nursing, “but the curriculum soon expanded,” according to the marker.

In 1925, the school relocated to its permanent home at 827 W. Franklin Street as the Richmond division of the College of William and Mary. In 1939, it was renamed the Richmond Professional Institute, and in 1962 it separated from William and Mary.

For most of the 1960s the school operated as an independent state institution “before merging with the Medical College of Virginia in 1968 to form Virginia Commonwealth University.”

The “Richmond Professional Institute” highway marker is sponsored by the VCU Foundation and was approved for manufacture and installation earlier this year by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which has authority to designate new historical markers. The VCU Foundation covered the manufacturing costs of the sign. The event is sponsored by the VCU School of Social Work, RPI Alumni Council, VCU Libraries and VCU Facilities Management.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,500 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority such as the City of Richmond.